The Real Reason We Can't Find The Lost Raphael Painting 'Portrait Of A Young Man'

Raffaello Sanzio da Urbino — more popularly known as Raphael — was an Italian architect and master painter during the Renaissance. In his lifetime, Raphael created numerous works of art, one of which was called "Portrait of a Young Man." It was painted between 1513 and 1514, and its subject is unknown.

In the early 1800s, Princess Izabela Czartoryska of Poland acquired the painting. She was an avid art collector and her acquisitions were housed in the Czartoryski Museum. Among those in her collection included Raphael's "The Portrait of a Young Man," Leonardo da Vinci's "Lady with an Ermine," and Rembrandt's "Landscape with the Good Samaritan," per The Division for Looted Art. These three works of art were deemed the most valuable pieces in the collection and were called "The Great Three." Other items in the museum included manuscripts, maps, and royal artifacts. It is estimated that Czartoryska was able to procure 16,000 Polish artworks and 22,000 pieces from foreign countries.

In 1939, when the Nazis were invading Poland during World War II, it is said that The Great Three paintings — along with other valuable pieces — were hidden behind a wall, as reported by Daily Art Magazine. That didn't deter the Nazis, though, and the valuable paintings were discovered and stolen.

Where is the 'Portrait of a Young Man'?

It is believed that The Great Three artworks were transported to Berlin, Germany in 1939 to be displayed at a yet-to-be-established museum in Linz, which was the brainchild of Adolf Hitler (via The Division for Looted Art). However, the Führermuseum, which it was supposed to be called, was never built. "The Portrait of a Young Man" was said to be last seen in 1945 in Nazi official Hans Frank's chalet in Germany. Frank (pictured above) was arrested by American troops in May 1945, and the search for Raphael's painting continued, but it was never found. Frank was executed for his war crimes in 1946. The Retrieval of Works Art Allies Commission was able to get back some art pieces that were stolen, but the Raphael painting was not one of them.

Of The Great Three paintings, only the "Portrait of a Young Man" was never retrieved, along with more than 800 pieces of art. The two other paintings by Rembrandt and Leonardo da Vinci were sent back to Poland and are currently displayed at the Czartoryski Museum, as stated in Raphael Sanzio. Many believe that the lost Raphael painting will emerge someday, as there are still valuable items stolen from the Czartoryski Museum that are being found.